The Cambridge Group was founded in 1964 by Peter Laslett (History Faculty) and Tony Wrigley (Department of Geography). It was initially a free-standing research grouping with support from the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Social Science Research Council. In 1974 it became a Unit of the Social Science Research Council with three co-directors, Peter Laslett (until retirement in 1983), Roger Schofield and Tony Wrigley. From 1990 it was a Designated Research Centre (DRC) of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) affiliated with the History Faculty, with Roger Schofield as Director. From 1994 to 2011 Richard Smith served as Director. In 2000 the Cambridge Group's status as a DRC ended and, following a period of funding uncertainty, in 2001 the Group joined the Department of Geography, where office accommodation and some infrastructural needs were generously supplied.
Since October 2013 the Group has had premises and support from both the Geography Department and the History Faculty and is truly interdisciplinary. Since 2001 the Group has secured over £6 million in external funding, primarily from the ESRC, the Leverhulme Trust and the Wellcome Trust but also from the AHRC and the British Academy. Since 2009 the precarious nature of research grant funding has been significantly alleviated by a grant from the Isaac Newton Trust (Cambridge) which provides significant 'fall-back' funding for individuals identified as core staff. Funding for the administrator/librarian is secured until the end of 2014.